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Schools Must Be Safe and Welcoming for All

posted Sep 9, 2019, 11:10 AM by Brenda Williams
As the new school year kicks off, the staff at Pequot Lakes Schools are working hard to establish routines and expectations, outline the year ahead, and create a safe and welcoming environment for all students - especially for the nearly 160 students who are new to the district! We know that a safe, collaborative, and welcoming environment is the essential foundation for students to learn. We also know that maintaining such an environment is more challenging than ever before with a smartphone in nearly every student’s pocket and media that teaches students negative behaviors. We adults must continually reflect on what our students are learning from TV, videos, music, and by what they see on social media.

Our Patriot staff have numerous efforts in place to establish and maintain a safe and welcoming environment. Our principals and teachers work to proactively teach positive behaviors and protocols through our school-based Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) programs and through the use of ENVOY classroom management strategies. Our WEB and LINK programs involve student leaders to welcome students who are new to the school and to welcome 5th and 9th graders as they make the transition to the next building. All three schools participate in the Courage, Respect, and Wisdom retreats each year facilitated by Youth Frontiers and follow up with reflective discussions. Our staff visibly speaks out against bullying wearing orange anti-bullying shirts each week and talking with students directly about why that message is so important to them. Our teachers intentionally try to identify students in the fall that may not have a positive and meaningful relationship with an adult in the building and then make plans to make those connections. In addition, our school leadership teams survey students and staff to monitor how safe and welcoming each school is perceived to be.

Over the past couple of years, many of our faculty have also been engaged in training and learning work focused on developing our “equity literacy” capacities. The training teaches us and challenges us to notice and address inequities in our schools that occur when some people have privilege and others are marginalized. People are marginalized in our society and in school systems because of income level, race, gender orientation, religion, political persuasion, disabilities, or any other reason power or practices establish privilege over others. Our goal is to learn to better recognize how students and families are marginalized by some of our practices and to address them to ensure that every student feels welcomed and valued in Pequot Lakes Schools.

The Patriot staff is proud of our many ongoing efforts to establish and maintain a safe, collaborative, and welcoming environment for each student. As the 2019-20 school year gets underway we invite all members of the Pequot Lakes Schools community to join this effort by modeling love, care and respect for others - even for those we disagree with on some issues. Every Patriot student is welcome here - let’s work together to make sure they all know it!!

-- Chris Lindholm, Superintendent of Schools